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The Evil of the Daleks

by John Peel

Book review by Jon Preddle

[Evil of the Daleks]

For years it was considered a lost cause to hope that the four remaining TV Dalek stories would ever see print as Target books.

Terry Nation refused to give permission on the grounds that in his opinion, these stories did not conform to his original concept of the Daleks. Last year, Nation finally relented and has allowed the two David Whitaker stories to be novelised by his good friend John Peel.

Peel's previous contributions to the printed world of Doctor Who have met with mixed reaction. His Official Doctor Who and the Daleks Book failed to live up to the promise of its title, whereas the less said about Timewyrm: Genesys the better. His other Doctor Who novels, The Chase and the two-volume Daleks' Master Plan, were actually quite good. With these to judge him by, Peel's talent obviously lies in adapting other people's works, than in creating his own.

The Evil of the Daleks is certainly the longest Doctor Who novelisation, running in at 288 pages of small print. But is length necessarily a sign of quality? In the case of this book, there is no cause for concern.

The novel is very faithful to the television script. In fact, apart from the DWM Archives and the BBC Audio release, I knew very little about this 26-year-old story, so for me the book was fresh and original. For example, the audio has several long passages without dialogue; the book finally reveals what is happening in them!

Characterisation is well-handled. We get invented backgrounds for most of the incidental characters that appear - so they are not just names on the page and we can at least feel something for them if and when they meet a gruesome end, as most of them do! There are, however, some places where Peel has gone overboard in his descriptions; he takes two paragraphs to describe Kemel taking off his jacket and draping it over the back of a chair, but this might be a result of the large page count imposed upon him. Terrance Dicks was once mooted as author of The Evil of the Daleks, but I'm glad he didn't get to do it as I cannot imagine such a richly-crafted script working as a 128-page 'he said, she said' book. Just look at what Dicks did to the seven-episode The Ambassadors of Death to see what I mean! I think Peel's excessiveness can be forgiven in this instance.

Peel has used as chapter titles the episode sub-titles created by David Whitaker but which weren't used on the finished programme. In what is clearly a production error, chapters 3 and 7 are both called 'The Net Tightens'!

Peel's previous Dalek novels have been built around the history that he wrote for the Official Doctor Who and the Daleks Book, which places The Evil of the Daleks as the very last Dalek adventure in terms of their chronology. This history, and therefore the novel, does not take Remembrance of the Daleks into account - which is unfortunate as it is the last Skaro story. The Evil of the Daleks makes reference to every other Dalek story.

I've yet to read Peel's other new book, The Power of the Daleks, but when I have both books in my collection it'll be good to finally have yet another Doctor's era complete on the shelf!

This item appeared in TSV 35 (September 1993).

Index nodes: The Evil of the Daleks